On September 16, 2009, Senator Tom Harkin was named chair of the Senate HELP (Health Education Labor and Pensions) Committee replacing Senator Ted Kennedy.
This change places Congress's foremost champion of hearing loss and disability issues at the helm of this important committee. The Senator has a long history of supporting issues important to the disability community, including sponsoring the hearing aid tax credit legislation in the Senate, S. 1019 in this session of Congress. The bill introduced by Senator Harkin would provide a tax credit for all Americans, regardless of age. The House bill limits the tax credit to dependant children and adults over the age of 55.
Senator Harkin's website provides a brief biography of the Senator, including the genesis of his interest in issues related to hearing loss and disability access:
Tom learned firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age. He took this knowledge to Congress where and made passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 his signature legislative achievement. Known as the "Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities," this landmark law protects the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. The law has literally changed the landscape of America by requiring accessible buildings and transportation, and workplace accommodations for people with disabilities. To preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened standards, Tom and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the ADA Amendments bill to ensure that all Americans with disabilities are protected from discrimination. It was signed into law in September 2008.
Source: Hearing Loss Association of America, www.hearingloss.org/.